ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney issued a disaster declaration for the county on Friday afternoon, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s stress on the region’s healthcare systems.

“Winnebago County’s top priority is the safety of our residents,” said Haney. “I urge our residents to adhere to the Tier 2 mitigations outlined in Executive Order #2020-62 to protect the community.”

The disaster declaration positions the County to access funding and support from the federal government when local resources have been depleted.

“The Disaster Declaration also emphasizes the critical condition of the health of the community that Winnebago County is currently facing in this phase of the pandemic.” says Dr. Sandra Martell, Public Health Administrator for Winnebago County.

On Friday morning, Dr. James Cole of SwedishAmerican said local hospitals are being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

“This can only go on so long,” said Dr. James Cole, from SwedishAmerican. “There’s only a finite number of beds. There’s only a finite number of healthcare personnel. Oh, by the way, those healthcare personnel are getting sick, as well. They’re getting sick from patients, but they’re also getting sick in the community.”

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better, because we’re going to see the winter illnesses,” he said. “And all of those winter illnesses, on top of COVID, is going to, potentially, super-saturate the three hospital systems here in this region.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health today reported a record 15,415 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus in Illinois, including 27 additional deaths.

In Winnebago County alone, there have been more than 700 new cases of COVID-19 since Monday.

According to the Winnebago County Health Department, residents need to take the following actions immediately to prevent additional infections:

· Stay home as much as possible.
· Use curb-side and delivery options.
· Limit non-essential travel.
· Do not gather outside of your household.
· Wear a face covering when with those outside your household.
· Wash hands frequently.
· Maintain social distancing.
· If you are sick, stay home.
· Get tested as needed.
· Follow the quarantine and isolation guidelines as provided by the health department to prevent transmission to others.